U.S. Searches for Ways to Pressure Iran

Vali Nasr, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, talks with Lynn Neary about the latest on U.S. negotiations with Iran over its nuclear ambitions.

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LYNN NEARY, host:

We go now to Vali Nasr. He's professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. He's been following developments between the United States and Iran. Professor Nasr, the Bush administration continues to insist that Iran suspend uranium enrichment before negotiations can begin, but Iran continues to refuse to do so. Do you see any progress here?

Professor VALI NASR (Department of National Security Affairs, Naval Postgraduate School): Well this all depends on what would be the outcome of negotiations between Iran and the European three. There's going to be talks between Iran's chief negotiator and Javier Solana, the chief European negotiator, and that will decide where Iran will stand.

NEARY: What about sanctions? Just yesterday French President Jacques Chirac said he opposes sanctions. There doesn't appear to be a lot of support within the Security Council for sanctions against Iran. So what options are left for the U.S. to pressure Iran?

Prof. NASR: Well, there are fewer. I mean we always knew that the Chinese and the Russians were not likely to go ahead with sanctions. But the U.S. hoped that even without them there could be a coalition of Europeans banded with the United States to put sanctions on Iran. But with the French balking that would make it very difficult for the U.S. to have any kind of financial leverage over Iran.

NEARY: Do you expect that President Bush or Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will pursue any form of negotiations this week in New York?

Prof. NASR: No, but they could set the context for negotiations to come. In other words, depending on the tone of their speeches at the United Nations they could either harden their positions of their countries, or they can open the door for greater conciliation in the coming weeks.

NEARY: Now both of them face political problems at home. How much of the rhetoric that we hear from both sides have to do with these domestic pressures?

Prof. NASR: A great deal. First of all, the president is obviously already looking to the 2006 November elections. And in Iran, Ahmadinejad has already staked his ground regarding the nuclear issue, so he cannot be seen to be backing away without getting some kind of reward in terms of Iran's nuclear position.

NEARY: All right. Thanks so much for joining us, Professor.

Prof. NASR: Thank you.

NEARY: Vali Nasr is professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. He's the author of The Shia Revival: How Conflicts Within Islam Will Shape the Future.

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